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Bristol Is Open to hit the ground running

The BlueCrystal supercomputer Dr Ian Stewart

Press release issued: 9 February 2015

The city’s first joint venture between Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol can begin thanks to approval at the city council’s cabinet last week [Tuesday 3 February]. Bristol Is Open received unanimous support from cabinet members and enables University research and council owned infrastructure to come together for the first time.

Bristol Is Open will manage the Open Programmable City project, a city-scale research infrastructure using fibre optic and wireless connectivity and high performance computing.  It is the first project of its kind in the UK, and puts Bristol at the leading edge of the smart city movement. 

The project will make use of part of the council owned BNet high speed fibre optic network and the University’s BlueCrystal High Performance Computer facility, a supercomputer capable of 200 trillion calculations per second.

In addition, Bristol Is Open will offer technology companies, research organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises the opportunity to experiment, learn and develop innovative solutions to many challenges of modern urban life. 

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol commented: “I’m delighted to be able to announce the formation of this historic partnership between the city and the University.  I firmly believe that this pioneering project has the potential to contribute massively towards developing solutions to vital issues such as mobility, health and energy efficiency in the city.

“This is the perfect answer to my offer of Bristol as a laboratory for change. Through working collaboratively with our partner organisations we are blending research, technology and the fabric of the city to create a real world test bed unlike any other.”

The project is made possible by the unique City Operating System (CityOS) developed by Professor Dimitra Simeonidou and colleagues in the University’s High Performance Networks research group. The CityOS will host machine-to-machine communication, which will enable the city to be programmable and allow the development of a wide range of research and innovation initiatives.

Data captured from a variety of sensors in the city environment will create “Big Data”, a snapshot of the environment on a grand scale. Air quality, traffic movement, temperature, humidity, traffic signal patterns are all examples of the types of data that will captured. Applications capable of analysing and programming this data will develop in time from collaborative partnerships secured by Bristol Is Open.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Bristol, said: “It is great news that the city’s cabinet has approved the project.  This unique partnership between the University and the council will enable Bristol to be one of the UK’s most technologically advanced cities.

“The University’s supercomputer, a £12 million facility called BlueCrystal, is one of the fastest in the world and is a resource for the whole city.  This is a ground-breaking project that could benefit how people live in a modern city.”

Projects already benefitting from the joint venture include TOUCAN (Towards Ultimate Convergence of All Networks) and SPHERE (a Sensor Platform for HEalthcare in a Residential Environment), projects aimed at providing solutions to problems in communications and health and wellbeing respectively.

The network will also provide a vital resource for one of the city’s most notable landmarks as it is set to receive a much anticipated upgrade.

At-Bristol science centre’s Planetarium is currently in the process of transforming itself from an analogue to a digital projection environment. As an educational charity, the funding granted will act as an investment in Bristol’s future as a centre for research, technological innovation and commerce; and extends At-Bristol’s current offer to the education sector to both formal and informal learning audiences. 

Making use of money secured by Bristol City Council from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, two new digital projectors will be installed to create a platform capable of beaming high definition, 3D content onto the Planetarium’s interior. Once complete, they too will be connected to the Bristol Is Open network and therefore linked to the University’s High Performance Computer.

Linking the upgraded planetarium to the network will provide a means of visualising a huge array of content. Complex Met Office weather patterns, high definition astronomical imagery, 3D design models and interactive games are but a few of the types of content that the planetarium could visualise.

Phil Winfield, Chief Executive of At-Bristol following the ratification of the upgrades funding, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded funding by DCMS and Bristol City Council for this project – it will enable us to transform our Planetarium into a world-class environment, both allowing us to develop and reach new audiences and partnerships within the business community in Bristol and beyond, as well as extending our own education offer to both informal and formal learning audiences. As an educational charity it’s exciting to be at the centre of such an innovative project that will change the way that we work and learn going forward.”  

Further information

About Bristol Is Open 
How cities work is changing. Bristol Is Open is a research infrastructure to explore developments in software, hardware and telecom networks that enable more interaction between people and places and more machine-to-machine communication. The project uses a high performance software defined network as the city operating system, then internet of things platforms and big data analytics feed an emerging number of smart city applications. This is giving people more ability to interact, work and play with the city that they live in, and will help cities address some of the biggest challenges of modern urban life.

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